On my schedule today was a pancake tortoise that was coming in because it wasn’t eating. I got all of my examination equipment ready and went into the exam room to get started. A young man was sitting in a chair with a shoebox on his lap. We chatted for a bit and then I started asking him questions about his tortoise.
I found out he had purchased the tortoise from a reptile show 8 years ago and that it lived in a ten gallon aquarium with gravel for substrate. It’s diet consisted of lettuce and carrots. Only. The only water provided was from a spray bottle that was used to mist the cage every other day. There was no heat, UV light, cage decor, hide, nothing. I wrote everything down and asked him for the box.
I opened the box and looked inside and nearly lost my composure. Inside was a stunted, gnarled creature about 4 inches long with a grossly abnormal shell. I took him out and put him on the table and pulled himself across the table bits and pieces of his carapace fell off. I don’t mean the scutes, I mean the actual pieces of bone that make up the shell. You could see his organs through gaps in his ribs.
“I will be right back” I said and grabbed the tortoise and went into the treatment room. I was so angry that my hands were shaking. Calculating some dosages I handed them to my tech and asked her to draw up pain medication and a sedative. “Did he approve this?” she asked.
“No. I don’t care. Please draw it up and give this IM.”
Slowly I walked back into the room. I asked the owner how long the tortoise had been like that. He wasn’t sure. He had just stopped eating a day ago. Up until then it was perfectly healthy.
“Your tortoise has been very poorly taken care of. If he were a dog this would be considered animal abuse. Because he is a reptile I am not very likely to get far with the authorities so I’m gonna make you a deal. You sign him over to me and pay for the examination and you can go.”
He thought about it and told me no, it was his tortoise. I asked why he didn’t take care of it. “I thought I was” was his response.
“Why doesn’t he have any source of heat?”
“I didn’t know they needed it.”
“Why didn’t you give him UV light?”
“I didn’t know they needed it.”
“You are telling me that you never opened a book, magazine, internet care sheet, nothing to find out how to care for a tortoise?”
“Yeah. I just thought I knew.”
We talked some more and I finally convinced him to sign the tortoise over. I went back to check on him and he looked even worse. More of his shell had fallen off. I could see his lungs now. I decided it would be for the best to humanely euthanize him so he wouldn’t suffer anymore.
In this day and age “I didn’t know” is not a valid excuse. You can look up anything on your phone from who invented pizza to where the closest movie theater is. There are literally hundreds of books, websites, and internet forums all about reptile care. You can call any veterinarian before purchasing an animal and ask them about their care and I promise you they will talk to you.
I am no longer going to gently nudge people in the right direction husbandry wise. I will no longer tell them “well, lots of people make that mistake, it’s ok”. I am going to call it like it is and if an animal is suffering they will know it is abuse. There is zero excuse for this.
It is sad that reptiles and other exotics don’t have the “cute” factor other animals do. No one would allow an owner to get away with feeding their dog nothing but potato peelings because they just “didn’t know” and yet it is perfectly fine to own a reptile and watch it slowly starve to death because someone “didn’t know” it needed to eat insects.
Iguanas that live in cages so small they can’t turn around. Tortoises kept without the proper heat gradient. Monitor lizards over fed until they are morbidly obese and can’t even walk. This is all abuse and it is wrong. Unfortunately reptiles are survivors and they can be dying for YEARS before anything is noticed. Owners confuse being alive with being healthy far too often.
I simply cannot stand by and watch this happen anymore. I allowed myself to be drawn into the “well, exotics are different, people just don’t know” mind set and did lots of hand holding while owners declined or refused my recommendations. From now on I promise I will flat out tell people it is animal cruelty and will have to make a phone call if things don’t change. It will not make me a popular vet nor a rich one but at least I will be able to sleep at night.
My challenge to everyone is that if they notice an animal being abused politely but firmly call the owner out. There is no need to internet shame, threaten violence or bully someone. Simply tell them what they are doing is wrong, their animal is suffering and they need to fix it. There are numerous reliable resources to find the proper information. If they won’t fix it the proper authorities need to be contacted.
applications for uk universities are coming up in a few months, so i figured i should post the tips i have collected from when i applied (since they’re all just sitting in a word document gathering dust), particularly for the personal statement! we had a talk from an admissions tutor who told us most of the stuff below + i attended 6 open days and picked up a fair few bits along the way (some stuff might be more relevant to sciences/physics)
the personal statement: what??
your personal statement is likely your only opportunity to try and ‘sell yourself’ to universities since most courses at most universities don’t interview
you send the same one to all your unis (even if you apply to different courses!)
4000 characters and 47 lines limit (you’ll probably hit the line limit first - keep copying and pasting it into UCAS to check this since it’ll probably be a little different to your word processors count). the average is about 500 words
80% academic, 20% extracurricular is generally a good guide
paragraph 1, intro: personal trigger for your interest in the subject you’re applying for! (not just ‘i’ve always been good at it/liked it’) - how your subject relates to society/current affairs if applicable and relevant (you’ll be seeing that word a lot). what aspects of the courses you’re looking forwards to (but don’t accidentally refer to something not done at all your choices) - prove that you know what you’re getting into
paragraph 2: what have you done to develop your interest? trips, books, wider reading - both in and out of school/college. link it to your subject! work experience, relevant volunteering. career aspirations - if you have one, put it in! it’s not set in stone just because you wrote it in a personal statement. part time job - skills gained (again, relevant ones), not just facts.
e.g. i worked in housekeeping part time => work under time pressure to a high standard and working effectively as part of a team
paragraph 3: non academic achievements e.g. duke of edinburgh - again, skills gained. if you’re doing a gap year, why/what are you doing etc - benefits?
paragraph 4, summary: short, just a few lines. final impression. recap - this should answer “why do you want to go to university and study your course” and “why do you deserve to be offered a place”. relevant to course - make reference to course choice/area, not generic. career aspirations are good to mention here. can keep it vague-ish for multiple courses, but course area should be clear!
this is just an example containing most of the stuff that should be in it - how you break it up doesn’t matter too much as long as it does have a structure (remember line breaks will influence your character/line count!)
rewarding, improved, interested, taking part, reinforced, gained, strengthen, in addition, developed, broadening, hard work, commitment, enhanced, thrive under pressure
long list of advice
be concise - characters are limited and you have a lot to say
be honest - lying is a. unnecessary and b. will probably come out later
remember the person receiving this probably reads thousands, try and keep it interesting
organised & structured!
persuade the reader that you deserve a place
avoid generic statements - everything must be relevant. as much as they may be true, things like “i achieved good grades/always enjoyed this subject previously” are obvious fillers.
imagine this is your interview - as i said, you probably won’t get a real one! why do you want to study this, what makes you the right person for this course.
DO NOT LIST. don’t do it. expand on everything you put down, make it relevant - what your experiences are isn’t important, what you got from them is.
spelling and grammar. check it, check it, check it again - and this must be done by a human, spell checkers don’t notice if you use the wrong word (it’s best to go with a teacher or parent, something like that, not other students or people on the internet - be very careful about sending your personal statement to people online).
don’t talk about things that belong in other sections - e.g. how good your grades are (they can already see these), extenuating circumstances (should be explained by your referee in the reference). repeating yourself makes you look desperate to fill space.
avoid ambiguity - explain yourself! e.g. ‘i did my gold award’ - in what?!
authentic - don’t be pretentious
avoid being generic
‘i’m looking forward to having an experience to remember for the rest of my life’ it lasts 3+ years; you’re going to remember it. don’t say it.
‘looking forwards to independence’ - very rarely a choice when you go to uni. virtually everyone else is in the exact same situation here. don’t waste characters on things that aren’t relevant or really important.
‘my family…’ they do not care about your family, they care about you. it is about you.
add comments, views and explanations to your points - pretend it’s an english essay or something - making a point by itself gets you no marks
use your own experiences - you will have enough, don’t make it up.
‘i’m quite good’ - avoid neutral or passive terms to describe yourself. be positive and show off that you do have these skills!
similarly don’t be uncertain - ‘i usually meet deadlines’ is pretty unconvincing
don’t play things down!
do your research - know which modules you will study in your courses so you can keep things relevant. talk about things you are particularly excited about and why.
what have you done outside of the a level course requirements?
obviously, don’t mention any of your unis by name or location (or course if they vary)
avoid humour: when someone makes a joke in front of a large audience, if they didn’t come to see them make jokes you will notice that maybe half laugh. you don’t know which half the person reading your personal statement will fall into. don’t do it.
make connections between interests and courses
draft and redraft and redraft until it’s perfect… and then check it over a few more times!
… but don’t let the people who check it over for you rewrite it! this must be your personal statement if you want to get anywhere
it’s run through sophisticated plagiarism/similarity software by UCAS. don’t write with a friend, don’t get one off the internet.
hopefully some of this helps someone out there, good luck!